Report: Miami Heat’s top priority is Kevin Durant, not Hassan Whiteside

Was a Western Conference Finals Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant’s final game as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder?

We won’t know the answer to that question for about another month or so when free agency starts. What we do know, however, is that teams will be lining up for the 27-year-old in an effort to sway him away from Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Lakers will be one of those teams, hoping to get a meeting with Durant when free agency opens up on July 1.

Another one of those teams, though, is the Miami Heat. Miami is facing an important offseason, faced with some major challenges, such as convincing Hassan Whiteside to return to South Beach.

The Lakers have been heavily linked to Whiteside, seeing as they need to fill the massive void at the center position. Due to his unique contract situation, the Lakers can offer the same amount of money and years for Whiteside that Miami can, which helps level the playing field a bit.

The Heat want Whiteside back, but he isn’t their top priority, according to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard (13:40 mark).

“What I’m telling you, no matter how much you laugh at it, is that the Heat is getting in the room with Durant. Now, what happens from there, who knows? But you can sit here and laugh at it all you want, but the plan, the construct is – the priority, the No. 1 thing this offseason – is get in the room with Durant.”

Le Batard continued and specifically mentioned that Durant takes precedence over Whiteside for Miami.

The Heat will have roughly a projected $40 million in salary cap space, and signing Durant this summer would result in a cap hit of about $28 million. Keep in mind that Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng are unrestricted free agents as well, and it would be shocking to see the former in another uniform.

Perhaps this is why Miami reportedly wants Whiteside to sign for less than a max deal, which is what he is worth on the market this summer. Either way, if Miami is caught up on chasing Durant, the Lakers could try to make Whiteside their first meeting and convince him to come to Los Angeles, starting with a max offer.

It’s likely all speculation at this point, but it appears the Lakers could at least have a decent chance to land Whiteside in free agency, since the Heat don’t seem to be seeing eye-to-eye with his demands. Los Angeles can offer two max contracts as well, so perhaps that could help their case in free agency this time around.

Of course, if the Heat come around and offer Whiteside a max contract, that could make it very difficult for the Lakers. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to watch what happens when July rolls around.

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